“Where you look affects how you feel”
David Grand, creator of Brainspotting.
Have you ever caught yourself staring in space while replaying in your mind a painful or unresolved memory? Do you find yourself often going back to the same painful thoughts and emotions, hoping they would just go away? The experience of bringing our focus on a specific point in space which resonates with our body sensations and emotions is what cutting-edge neuroscientists, refer to as activating a memory capsule; brain neurons which together hold all aspects of a memory: physical sensations, emotions, taste, light, touch, sound, color, smell, etc. Brainspotting taps into our deepest memories and feelings, and allows for deep emotional healing at accelerated speed!
Our traumatic and overwhelming experiences seldom go away just by talking about them. The truth is that, as long as they remain unprocessed, they keep on affecting how we perceive, feel and act on a daily basis. They negatively transform our experience of the world and of ourselves by either keeping us on high alert and anxious (fight and flight response), or numb and disconnected (freeze response), or bouncing back and forth between these extreme ways of being. In doing so, they render us more susceptible to be easily triggered by anything and everything which reminds our brainstem and limbic system of similar past adverse experiences.
Dr. David Grand, the founder of Brainspotting discovered that “where we look affects how we feel”. Neuroscience confirms that our eyes connect directly to our limbic system and brainstem. When our visual field is focused on an active brainspot –a visual place where we feel an emotional charge for no apparent reason– a memory capsule is activated and made available for processing. As the focus on an active brainspot is maintained, and bilateral stimulation is integrated, the inherent ability of our brain-body-mind connection to find adaptive resolutions to core painful memories is engaged. The deep healing of what once were overwhelming and unresolved life experiences begin.
Brainspotting helps process and frees us from our painful past. It allows us to live more fulfilling lives, to be more present. Brainspotting can help with, but not limited to:
Sport performance enhancement
Addictive and compulsive behaviors
Anxiety and panic disorders
Depression and a sense of being stuck
Fear of taking on challenges
Who can benefit from Brainspotting?
Brainspotting was initially developed as a useful treatment for trauma. But, this technique can be helpful in any situation where thinking can get in the way of everyday life. It’s great for the over-thinkers, and those with high anxiety, because it bypasses the “thinking” cortex of your brain. Brainspotting allows for nonverbal processing, since you can talk as much or as little as you want. It is especially helpful if you’ve gotten “stuck” on an issue or feel like something is holding you back from moving forward or being more successful.
Brainspotting for Athletes
A trauma experienced during practice for a performance or during a performance itself is performance trauma. Such trauma can include physical injuries, failures, & humiliations. Performance traumas accumulate in the nervous system of the performer from childhood & ultimately lead to performance blocks & anxiety.
Blocks never make any sense to an athlete, parents, coaches. Athletes and coaches don’t have a clue how to fix the problem and typical approaches such as working harder are not effective, and only add to frustration and deepening of the problem. This is because blocks all have trauma bases that operate outside the athlete’s conscious awareness and control. Unless the underlying physical and emotional traumas are identified and addressed, the problem might lessen but never be fully eliminated. Many athletes struggle endlessly. When traditional approaches used by athletes and coaches fail to get the individual back on track, the athlete is referred to as a “head case”. Coaches and teammates will suggest that what is “really” wrong is some kind of character deficiency. They refer to athletes as “mentally weak” or “chokers”; and say things like, “She’s just not that motivated and doesn’t want it bad enough”. This only adds to the problem because it creates fallacy around the root cause.
Working with athletes who are struggling with blocks, it is normal to find an accumulation of sport and/or personal traumas as the source of symptoms. Examples of traumas that impact sport performance include, but are not limited to: emotional or verbal abuse; physical injury of the self, loved ones, or teammates; and experiences that may have diminished self-esteem at home, school, or in the athletic arena – such as poor performance. These physical and emotional traumas are held frozen in time in the brain and body. The unconscious remnants of these negative experiences generate a sense of danger, physical tension, and self-doubt that interfere with optimal performance.
Brainspotting works to locate, identify, and target the roots of performance problems that are stuck in the body and brain. The problem often exists at an unconscious level stored deeply in the brain. The athlete is either unable to articulate the problem, or is unaware of it altogether. Brainspotting locates where physical and emotional traumas are frozen in the brain and body. It uses bilateral stimulation to process and deactivate these physiologically charged sites. Athletes are able to process and release the trauma’s present day effects so that they can return to their old selves once again.
The emergence of a block in athletics does not correspond to the start of the problem and instead, represents the end product of a long sequence of accumulated issues and events. Blocks are like a puzzle. Good detective work is required to identify the intricate pieces involved in a solution. Treatment involves getting a good idea of what the block looks and feels like from the athlete’s perspective. An extensive injury and trauma history must be taken to identify the experiences that are frozen in the athlete’s brain and body. As it is these experiences that are generating anxiety, fear, physical tightness and tentativeness. Once an adequate history is taken, work can begin immediately to alleviate distress.
This sounds like it takes a long time, but it doesn't. Brainspotting can work quickly! Not only can it heal the source of the block, Brainspotting can be used effectively to reconnect with the joy of playing your particular sport, maximize performance and achieve flow.